by Doug Phillips
All men are religious because all men have an object of worship. All men have faith in something. In the end, men will either worship and serve the creature, or they will worship and serve the Creator. But they will worship something.
In the 18th century, many began to worship the mind. The religion of that day was rationalism. In the 19th century, this god morphed into scientism. But science failed to provide the answers to ultimate questions. The men of the 20th century looked for a more immediate solution to the problems of humanity — they chose to worship the State. This failed. Statism proved to be a harsh taskmaster. In the absence of any real solutions from rationalism, scientism, and statism, men fixed their attention on a new god — or rather, an ancient God that just needed a new facelift.
That god is the earth.
21st-century men are earth worshippers. They are sanitized pantheists. Of course, they don’t call themselves pantheists or earth worshippers, but religious devotion to the material world is the essence of this modern faith.
This religious devotion to the material world as god comes in many shapes and sizes, but it has become ubiquitous in our culture. The new pantheism is at the heart of the green movement. It is reflected in the priorities of Hollywood, in the agenda of politicians, and in the curriculums of the government schools. It is found in the marketing campaign of Madison Avenue, in the reality TV shows of cable television, and sadly, even in pulpits across the nation. The worship of the creation has become a defining undercurrent in our culture, even as it is reshaping many of the cultures of the modern world.
And this is one reason why this Friday, April 22, millions of people (perhaps billions) representing the countries of the United Nations will stop to celebrate the high holy day of this religion as they pay homage to the earth God. Of Earth Day, evolutionary anthropologist Margaret Meade once explained that:
EARTH DAY is the first holy day which transcends all national borders, yet preserves all geographical integrities, spans mountains and oceans and time belts, and yet brings people all over the world into one resonating accord, is devoted to the preservation of the harmony in nature and yet draws upon the triumphs of technology, the measurement of time, and instantaneous communication through space.
EARTH DAY draws on astronomical phenomena in a new way — which is also the most ancient way — by using the vernal Equinox, the time when the Sun crosses the equator making the length of night and day equal in all parts of the earth. To this point in the annual calendar, EARTH DAY attaches no local or divisive set of symbols, no statement of the truth or superiority of one way of life over another.
Should Christians care about the earth? Not only must we care about it, we have a holy duty to engage the earth. The difference between the objectives of biblical Christianity and radical environmentalism can be found in the religious assumptions of both groups.
Four Lies of the Radical Environmentalist Movement
With Earth Day comes billions of dollars worth of environmentalist propaganda driven by their religious worldview. Some of the themes you can expect to hear repeated this year include the following:
1. The Earth Is Our Mother: The very expression “Mother Earth” is popular parlance in our culture and reflects the old pagan longing to worship the physical world. Modern environmentalists, with their devotion to the idea that man is just another life-form to spring from the womb of the earth on the evolutionary journey of life, speak openly about earth being the mother of man.
2. Human Life Has No Greater Intrinsic Value Than Animal Life: The notion that man is an insignificant blip in the universe and that our planet is almost as insignificant as man is an oft-repeated concept of the modern environmentalist movement. Radical environmentalists complain about the carbon footprints of humans, and the sin of “Speciesism” — man discriminating against lower life-forms.
3. The Greatest Crisis Facing Humans is the Despoiling of the Earth: From the media campaigns of former Vice President Al Gore, to the film agenda of Avatar, radical environmentalists want you to believe that the single greatest problem facing humanity is the environmental destruction of earth.
4. Absent a Radical Shift in Private Practice and Public Policy, the Environmental Crisis Will Lead to the End of Life on Earth: Modern pantheists care deeply about the future. One thing is clear: Radical envioronmentalists have their own eschatology. They see the end of the world coming because of nuclear waste, global warming, the loss of rainforest in the Amazon, or any of a host of perceived environmental hazards.
Four Christian Assumptions About the Earth
1.The Earth is Witness to the Power and Authority of God the Creator Who Alone May Be Worshipped: The Bible teaches that the very existence of the earth is a reminder to all men of the eternal power and Godhood of Christ, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:20). It reminds us that as long as the earth continues, the promises of God will remain faithful (Genesis 8:22; Deuteronomy 7:9). Significantly, the Bible warns us that the consequence for man rejecting the witness of creation is that he worships creation itself (Romans 1:22-25).
2.The Earth Was Made for the Glory of God and the Benefit of Man Who Was Made the Pinnacle of Creation and of Infinitely Greater Value than Animals or the Earth Itself: Man is the pinnacle of creation and has more eternal value than the earth or any of the creatures who live on it (Psalm 8:5). Man is not a carbon footprint; he is the image-bearer of God. This means that the most “insignificant” human life (insignificant only in the eyes of man) is of inestimably greater value than that of a blue whale, a snail darter, a spotted owl, a mountain, or a tree.
3.The Earth Has Been Placed under Man who Has a Moral Obligation to Subdue it and to Exercise Wise Stewardship over the Earth: Man is God’s appointed steward on earth, and his core mission is to be His agent of dominion over it. Toward this end, God has placed all things under man to be used for his benefit and to be carefully stewarded and cultivated for God’s glory. “Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet” (Psalm 8:6).
4.The Earth is Not the Problem: The reason why the earth suffers is because of man’s sin that has plunged the earth into judgment. Man brought death and judgment to earth. In fact, the whole creation is groaning and waiting redemption (Romans 8:22-23). Despite the righteous judgment of God on earth, He is merciful and promises the continuation of the seasons and the fundamental stability of the planet until the end of time (Genesis 8:22), at which there will be a new heaven and new earth (2 Peter 3:13).
All men are religious because all men have an object of worship. In the end, they will worship and serve the creature, or they will worship and serve the Creator. But they will worship something.
Earth Day, and the radical environmental movement that spawned this high holy day of pantheism, are at war with the Gospel because they perpetuate false worship. The Christian response to the idolatry of Earth Day might be reduced to this simple thought: Jesus Christ is the Creator, and He alone is to be worshipped. He created man as the pinnacle of creation and determined that humans would be the only part of creation to be made in the very image of God, and that man as the image-bearer of God would rule over the earth.
On a practical level, this means that Christians need to stop allowing the radical environmentalist movement to define the issue. We must cease from being the tail and become the head on the question of our duties, privileges, and responsibilities vis-a-vis creation. The Bible has a great deal to say about our use of the resources of the world and our relationship to the earth. Of all people, Christians who honor the Creator should have a passion for creation. We are losing the debate through subversion, silence, lack of vision, and because of the Christian community’s fear of the God-ordained, perpetually valid, creation precept called “The Dominion Mandate.” This mandate directs man is to rule over the earth, subduing it and taking dominion over it for his benefit and for God’s glory. Implicit to the Dominion Mandate is the duty of man to cultivate, wisely manage, and carefully steward the planet.
Finally, man’s problems will never be solved through the elevation of human reason, the power of science, or the interventions of the state. Nor will rescuing the biosphere of planet earth save man or ensure him a future on this planet. You cannot save the earth. But human beings can be saved. And the only hope of salvation is found in Jesus Christ — the Creator! It is this Creator through whom we live and breathe and who by the very power of His word holds the worlds together. He will someday establish a new heaven and a new earth and will bring all of His people into Glory.